The officer who has emerged as the most senior in the Navy after the sudden resignation of Admiral D K Joshi and is in contention for the top post was found to be “not fit” for elevation as a commander-in-chief several times before it was finally overruled by the defence ministry in 2011.
Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, the Western Naval Commander under whose charge a bulk of the recent accidents have taken place, including the two on board the Sindhurakshak and Sindhuratna submarines, had been turned down for appointment to a commander-in-chief rank by then Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma on the basis of his service record, it is learnt.
Sinha, who is ‘Grey Eagle’, the most senior aviator of the Navy, was a Vice Admiral in 2011 when there was an opening for the chief of integrated defence staff (CISC), a post equivalent to the rank of a commander-in-chief. By virtue of seniority, Sinha should have been elevated to the post, but his appointment was turned down by Verma. It is learnt Verma had sent a note to the defence ministry, explaining his decision was taken on the basis of Sinha’s service record, which allegedly included several adverse remarks in his annual confidential reports that pertained to earlier command positions on warships.
Sources said Verma had made it clear that he did not consider Sinha fit for the rank of a commander-in-chief and had instead recommended that Vice Admiral Robin Dhowan, the current Vice Chief, be elevated to the position of the CISC. While the position of Verma was initially accepted by the defence ministry, the matter got complicated after Sisnha sent a formal representation to the MoD, insisting as per seniority, he should be considered for the position. At the end, Verma was asked to accept Sinha’s elevation.
While the issue was deemed to have been resolved then, it has now come to the fore again as the Centre is looking for a successor to Joshi, who quit taking moral responsibility for the spate of accidents. Sources said that at this point of time, Sinha is not contemplating resigning, making the selection of a new chief an extremely tough decision.